Thursday, 10 May 2018

up the herepath

At Bishops Cannings we had the last of the frosts, waking to pure clear skies that went on for ever. The blackbirds sang from well before dawn, and sometimes you could hear a distant raven, and maybe see it now and then, climbing high into the sky until your eyes strained to see it, then tumbling down and cronking for the joy of it all. Presently the sun rose behind Tan Hill, and drew skeins of mist from the canal. 

We walked up there, crossing the big fields of young wheat where the clouty damp earth hangs heavy on your boots, and partridges skulk into the nettles as you cross the stile; then up the Herepath, and out onto the tops that go on for miles towards Avebury and beyond. In the still of the afternoon, we heard only the skylarks. A pair of roe deer were crossing the ridge in the far distance. I lifted my binoculars, and they instantly turned their heads and met my gaze. Then they cantered over the brow of the hill and out of sight.

Presently we met the Wansdyke, still an imposing landmark up here, the ditch and rampart little changed since it was dug, though softened with time and hawthorn bushes. To the west it ran towards Furze Knoll, one of those clumps of trees on hilltops that are each so distinctive, I guess we can all name at least half a dozen of them.

A bird was not so much singing as making a stuttering sneezy sound; it was unfamiliar, and we sat and watched and hoped it would finally show itself. It did, and revealed itself to be a corn bunting.

The limestone uplands are no place to be on a hot afternoon without anything to drink. We came down past barns where the swallows were still flitting about in the excitement of being back from their holidays, and gratefully put the kettle on.

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